TOPICS IN HISTORY

"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child," said that great Roman, Cicero. Indeed, history is so vital to us that we can hardly ever resist reshaping it to suit our own prejudices! But we should try to get beyond that, at least sometimes! Sharing views of history in a forum such as GAPS ARTS can help us to grow..  

INVESTIGATING THE BEST

Virgil. Simone Martini

Furthermore, history, even our history, is such a vast subject that we always feel the need to divide it up into manageable, but artificial, compartments-usually to suit our prejudices! For example, for generations it has been common to divide European history into the "Classical" period, the "Dark Ages", the "Middle Ages", the "Renaissance", the "Enlightenment", and so on. In this model, some periods have been relegated to an inferior status. Is this justified? Isn't it more likely that the best in every "age" is worth investigating and learning from?

Another artificial distinction commonly made is that between "church history" and "secular history". In reality "church" and "world" have always been inextricably intertwined in Western history, each shaping the other and both together shaping the modern world. One historian has even written: "We are what we are today because a handful of Jews saw their teacher and leader crucified and believed he rose again from the dead." (J. M. Roberts, The Penguin History of the World)

At GAPS ARTS, the attempt can be made to explore topics in history holistically, uncovering relevance and significance even in what may seem, at first sight, to be unlikely places.

The illustration is the frontispiece of Petrarch’s Virgil, by Simone Martini, c.1340

 
GAPS ARTS LECTURES

94

THE PASSION OF PERPETUA:
THE LIFE AND AFTERLIFE OF
AN EARLY CHRISTIAN MARTYR

Ryan Brown-Haysom

7.00 pm, Sunday, 25th March, 2018




 

In the year 203, on or around March 7, six Christian martyrs were put to death in the arena in the Roman city of Carthage. We know of their fate in part from a remarkable account of their martyrdom called the Passion of Perpetua and Felicity. This text, which was compiled soon after the events it describes, appears to contain part of the prison diary of one of the martyrs: a Roman noblewoman called Vibia Perpetua.

Perpetua's first-hand account of her trial and imprisonment¨Dand of the sequence of extraordinary dream-visions she claims to experience while in custody¨Dprovides a fascinating window into early Christian attitudes towards martyrdom, gender, social status, spiritual authority and temporal power. This lecture will briefly consider these issues and explore some of the problems that Perpetua's unique narrative posed for subsequent generations of Christians.

Ryan Brown-Haysom holds an MA in English Literature,
and a BTheol (Hons) from the University of Otago, and
an MLitt in History from the University of Auckland.